Everyone’s taste in reading material is different, so I would never insist that anyone rush out and buy a book just because I think it’s wonderful. I might come close, though, when a book REALLY touches me. If you want to read something that will make you laugh, cry, hurt AND understand, And Life Comes Back by Tricia Lott Williford is for you.
When I first read And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope Reclaimed last summer, I had no blog, nor any concrete plans to start one.
I have one now (obviously), with a sorta-regular feature called Author Notes. And I have been planning to write an Author Note about your book ever since I wrote the first installment of this series last fall.
It hasn’t taken me this long to do this because I am the world’s biggest procrastinator (although arguments for that point could be made rather easily). It’s that your story, as told on your blog and in your book, is so vulnerable, so gut-wrenching AND so well-composed that whenever I think about writing to you, I struggle to put into words what I want to say. It’s impossible for me to do your book justice in one short letter.
Then I remember that the purpose of Author Notes is not to do books justice; it’s to tell authors how much their work means to me. And in the case of your book, that’s easy.
Quite simply, And Life Comes Back is the best book I’ve read in a very long time. I feel a little weird saying that, given the tender subject matter. On one hand, my heart breaks over how you lost your husband Robb suddenly after 10 years of marriage. On the other hand, I am grateful that you bravely plowed through the shock, despair and overwhelming sadness to write a book that surely will be a source of comfort and hope to other people who have lost loved ones for years to come.
And Life Comes Back shines on several different levels. From a writing standpoint, your voice drew me in and held my attention until the last page. You tell a dramatic story with surprisingly little drama. You don’t overuse adverbs or adjectives, nor do you employ confusing literary devices. You just write what happened—before, during and after Robb died in your arms that December morning more than four years ago—in a way that made me feel almost as if I were there too, watching it all unfold.
Your words are starkly transparent without being self-absorbed or whiny (though it would be perfectly understandable if you had been either). Your spiritual wrestling is blunt and honest, but never disrespectful. As your friend so aptly put it when you completed your rough draft, you truly are “the Queen of Nondenial.”
One of the most touching anecdotes in the book is when you tell about getting a tattoo on your first anniversary after Robb’s death, and the tattoo artist’s reaction to finding out you were a widow. You could have included his colorful language in its entirety; instead, you write what happened in such a way that conveys his “raw authenticity” without unnecessary shock value. That takes a certain maturity, a graciousness of character that you don’t always see in books like this.
The scenes you include from your marriage—the roller coaster of a “reentry” cycle you’d go through when Robb returned from business trips, the time when your “very conservative, private” husband showed the world how much he loved you by dancing in his underwear on your second honeymoon, how every day for two years you recorded things about Robb for which you were thankful—are poignant and intimate, but you never veer into too much information.
It’s as if you wrote every word with the knowledge that your two young sons would be reading your words one day and asking questions. As fellow writer-mom, I appreciate that very much.
I read on the treadmill, usually fiction. I made an exception with your book, and all I have to say is this: It is extremely difficult to run on the treadmill when you are gasping out sobs. Even now, as I’m re-reading sections to make sure I’ve remembered what you wrote correctly, I have to stop from time to time and swallow down the lump that threatens to take over my throat.
Your entire story moved me so much that I asked my husband—who much prefers books about Navy Seals and extreme wilderness survival experiences—to read it. It only took him about two days, and not just because he also has an extensive collection of 1980s contemporary Christian music CDs collecting dust in our basement. (You’ll know what I mean by that, and everyone else will just have to read the book to find out.)
And Life Comes Back could strike fear in the hearts of people like me who have not experienced such great personal trauma. But instead of dwelling on “What if this happens to me?”—a train of thought that is completely paralyzing and unproductive—I try to look at the ways your book has altered my perspective about life and death, love and marriage.
It opened my eyes to what the immediate and longer-term aftermath of this kind of loss is really like. That breaks my heart in so many ways, but it also helps me to be a more empathic friend. In addition, it makes me appreciate and cherish the life I have with my own husband and children. It reminds me to hold them closer, speak to them more kindly and enjoy who they are more fully—one day at a time.
At the risk of sounding flippant, I was almost disappointed when I turned the last page, because I didn’t want the book to end. I wanted to read more, to learn more, to understand more.
Tricia, I am so sorry that Robb died, when and how he did. For your sake, and the sake of your two boys, I wish none of it had happened.
It did, happen, though. And somehow, you’ve managed to open your heart to the world and spill out exactly what the subtitle promises: a story of love, loss and hope reclaimed.
“I have trudged ahead with my eyes open,” you write, “insistent that this wrenching pain would not be wasted.”
It hasn’t been wasted, Tricia. Not one single tear.
P.S. I’m linking up today with Leah Adams at the Loft.